Is there an Edison in your house?
First, let me start by saying, I am not a scientist, doctor, nor do I have a wall of diplomas and certificates. What I know, I’ve learned from over a decade of having an Edison living with me. Plus, I have had the privilege of spending one day a week, over the last few years, with a bunch of families that also have at least one Edison in their house. So, this is what I’ve learned and am learning about Edisons.
So, who is an Edison?
Well, you might have an Edison in your house, if your kid is high energy, non-stop, constantly in motion and there is no in between.
They are either asleep or full force awake. I realized this when my oldest was a baby when he didn’t like naps and fought bedtime. He was so afraid to miss something. When we finally did get him to sleep, he would sleep through the night, no problem. He was my easiest baby in that way. When he was about 4 or 5 he told us, one night, he couldn’t sleep because “I can’t get his brain to shut off”. He’s also a night owl and would sleep until lunch if we let him. He just bypassed little kid stage and went straight to teenager there.
Sitting still is a form of torture to him, something must be in motion. He’s a kinesthetic learner. The Wikipedia definition is “a learning style in which learning takes place by the students carrying out physical activities, rather than listening to a lecture or watching demonstrations.”
I started to notice this trend when we weren’t welcome at Toddler Story Time at the library. It said it was for toddlers that were walking. I assumed that they understood what that meant. His new-found skill, at 9 months old, meant all he wanted to do was walk around and explore. Sadly, they wanted sweet little quiet, non-moving toddlers to sit and listen to the story.
When I finally started investigating the concept of Kinesthetic learning, I found that making him sit on an exercise ball while listening to a story or even practicing his handwriting, solved a lot of problems. His handwriting actually improved as he bounced up and down.
You see Edisons aren’t necessarily bad kids that don’t listen, it’s simply a case of it’s almost impossible for them to function sitting still. I know, I’m the same. I’d be standing in a line with my mother and swaying side to side. “Lesley stop swaying!” I would stop swaying, but then start rocking because I had to be in motion. Finally, at 12 years old, someone told me to get a smooth rock, or Worry Stone as it’s called in Ireland, and rub it. When I tell you I can’t function sometimes without it now, is an understatement. I have a hard time focusing when I am reading if I don’t have it.
You might have an Edison in your house, if your kid comes up with well thought out, crazy ideas.
If you look at Edison’s life, he had big dreams. When he died, Edison left over 3000 notebooks full of ideas, data, and comments on experiments, as well as 1093 patents.
They are entrepreneurs. Always dreaming of new schemes. They build a Lego set, then take it apart to make it do something more or something better. They think outside of the box. In fact, they probably turned the box into some sort of fort. My middle son gets excited when I get an Amazon delivery; before the box is opened, he has already asked if he can use it.
You might have an Edison in your house, if your kid is taking apart stuff to figure out how it works.
My youngest was doing this at a year old. I joke this one little finger is going to get him into trouble. He will sit there and touch something and feel it and poke it and examine it! The whole time he is in another world, all of his own! I can’t tell you how many times my other two kids have taken apart their toys and mutated them. My solution was to get it in Lego form, because then at least it’s meant to be taken apart. I should have shares in superglue and duct tape by now, as well as running my own toy repair company.
They also want to know about everything. Why does this do that? What makes it do this? Now yes, every kid is inquisitive but Edisons are amplified. They HAVE TO KNOW. They will risk punishment to find the ‘why’ or ‘how’ or ‘what’. They will weigh the cost and do it anyway.
Thomas Edison, himself, was inclined this way. He famously set fire to the family barn, to investigate what the color of a really hot flame. The same fire spread to the neighbors’ properties. His punishment was a public flogging in the town center.
It’s why these kids are sometimes seen as reckless. The need to know is so great it overrides common sense and a sense of danger.
You may have an Edison in the house, if you have a strong-willed kid.
Strong-willed is not to be confused with undisciplined. I’ve seen some of the most well behaved, disciplined kids, undergo a complete personality change. Simply triggered when something does not play out the way they see it in their head. This ties back into the other characteristics, like the need to be inquisitive or their obsessive side.
You might have an Edison in the house, if your child is obsessive about things.
My boys can tell you every make and model of construction equipment ever. Give them an equipment resale catalog and they are happy for hours. Don’t make the mistake of calling a front-end loader a digger around them, you will end up getting a lesson as to what the difference is. This is just one example, but with Edisons, they get their teeth into something with vice-like reflexes.
Thomas Edison’s obsessiveness lead to many of his major breakthroughs. It was not unheard of for him to lock the laboratory door and tell his team, no one would be leaving until a solution was found. I think later in life, he realized not everyone had the same level of passion or commitment. This is a particularly hard issue for Edisons to live with.
You might have an Edison in your house, if you have a kid that just has a raw talent that almost makes you sick.
Some things just come easily to them. They develop fine motor skills fast, they sit down at a piano and it just flows, they teach themselves to read, they see the way things work instantly.
Now don’t get me wrong, you can have a kid that has amazing talent in one area but in another, they struggle. No human is perfect at everything. When Edisons find their ‘thing’, they thrive.
So why do I call them Edisons?
My boys struggle with reading, which seems to be more common than you realize. It makes me wonder if it’s not that some kids develop at different levels. The ‘have to read by Kindergarten’ standards are not beneficial to kids. The research is starting to prove this. I would love to see what would happen if instead of remedial reading classes, Maker Labs were introduced for struggling readers. It would be interesting to see, how much over a year or two, that would affect, not only a child’s ability to read but also their self-esteem.
In my research on their reading challenges, I read a book entitled Dreamers, Discoverers, and Dynamos by Lucy Jo Palladino. She had originally called it the Edison Trait. That was when I first learned about Edison’s learning difficulties. Dr. Palladino presents such an encouraging view of these kids.
On my home-education journey, especially as I have adopted a STEM approach, the life of Thomas Edison came across my path again. I find the man fascinating. He was probably one of the most influential innovators and inventors to live. As I read his biography to my boys, we learned a lot from his life and my boys found him ‘heroic’ to look up to.
He was labeled ‘addled’ by his headmaster, or ADHD in modern terms. His mother never accepted this label. I know some of you, home educating parents, reading this can probably relate and you home educate for the same reason Nancy Edison did. As I read about his early years, I realized, he was the original STEM kid. Nancy created an environment, similar to the one that I am trying to create for my boys. Well, we can see that what she did, worked.
So, after all this, Mr. Edison, the misunderstood little boy that was ‘labelled’ and, had his mother not had the wisdom to pull him from school and let him study through child-directed learning, we may have waited many more decades, if not centuries, for the invention of things that evolved to make our modern lives possible.
I often wonder how many Edisons sit in classrooms, labeled incorrectly. Forced to conform to an education system that is not geared to how they learn. Do they ever reach their full potential? Or by 18 years old, when they graduate, are they so used to being ‘labeled’ that they have accepted they are never going to excel?
I live with Edisons, each different in their level of qualities, but then each child is unique. What I am learning is the world is a lot less stressful and frustrating when I turn the focus of their education to their needs and interests.
Mr. Edison said of his mother, “My mother was the making of me. She understood me; she let me follow my bent [interests].” I hope, when my days as a home educator are over, my boys will say the same of me and they will step into their careers with all the tools they need.
STEM Training is my forum for sharing with you ways to equip these kids. The best decision I made was to open the world of learning to my kids in a way that they needed, not the way that an education system dictates.